Four Rules for Keeping Your Data in Tiptop Shape

Everyone wants to know the secret of success in a highly competitive and often cluttered marketplace. According to Ray Melissa, founder/president of Rancho Santa Margarita, CA-based list and data services firm Melissa Data Corp., much of it is simply a matter of making sure your databases are in the best possible condition. “Whether you use your database for an occasional mailing or telemarketing campaign, or depend on it daily for the very survival of your business, the content and quality of your data inevitably equals the lifetime value of your database,” Melissa says. Here are Melissa’s four rules for keeping your data in the pink.

Rule #1: Clean it up or clear it out! What good is an address if you can’t deliver to it? The most obvious indicator of bad address data is returned mail. Not only are you wasting money on postage and printing, but you’re also missing an opportunity to communicate with your customer or prospect.

Cleaning up addresses is easy these days. Just be sure to take advantage of the many reliable U.S. Postal Service-certified programs for verifying and correcting address data. Among those Melissa cites are CASS-certified software programs and services, Delivery Point Validation (DPV), the Delivery Sequence File (DSF), and the Locatable Address Correction System (LACS).

Rule #2: Eliminate duplicate records. “Now that your addresses are accurate and standardized, searching for duplicate records is a breeze,” Melissa says. “You can easily find multiple records containing duplicate information. On average, a list will have 10% in duplicates. Keep the ones you want–and for budget’s sake, get rid of the rest!”

Rule #3: Verified addresses do not guarantee accurate delivery. Still getting mail returned even though the address itself is correct? Maybe your intended recipient just doesn’t live at that address anymore. Up to 20% of your database may need new addresses for recipients, Melissa says.

To find those new addresses, submit your list to a reliable vendor for the Postal Service’s National Change of Address (NCOA) service. It will match your addresses to records on file with the USPS dating back four years. Extended services catch even more of your movers by tapping into a variety of sources dating back five years or more.

Rule #4: Put a little “sip” into your database. They may look like just nine simple numbers, but to a direct marketing specialist, the zip+4 code on an address is a golden opportunity for effective target marketing. Using the code, you can access census data, carrier route codes, city and county statistics, and more. From there, Melissa says, “you can identify the demographics and geographics of your consumers, target your best market, reduce postage, eliminate waste, and of course, increase delivery and response rates.”

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